After weeks turned into more than a month, Granit Xhaka’s impending move to Roma suddenly didn’t seem so clear cut. His time at Arsenal was drawing to a close and as soon as the Italian side pulled their finger out and stumped up the cash, he’d be gone.
Xhaka is going nowhere. He forgot his plane tickets to Rome at his house and the flight was sold out. The turnaround in this saga is quite remarkable.
Mikel Arteta has made it abundantly clear the Swiss is staying and the player even made a gesture against Chelsea to rubber-stamp it. After months of speculating who could be brought in to partner Thomas Partey, the answer was staring us in the face all along.
If nobody was willing to pay the £20m Arsenal value him at then selling for absolute pittance at £12m would set a dangerous precedent.
Granit Xhaka’s new Arsenal contract is completely illogical from the club after his summer transfer to Roma fell through over his valuation
However, he’s not just staying. Indeed, he’s getting a shiny new contract with a pay rise. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Another recruitment decision that is borderline unexplainable.
Arsenal were primed and ready to sell Xhaka. Likewise, Xhaka was primed and ready to leave. Throughout the window he made comments about Rome, learning Italian and Arsenal ‘knowing what I want to do’.
Criminally underappreciated, yes, this was nonetheless the perfect time to cut ties; to move into a different direction, re-energise the midfield and sculpt a new dynamic for the coming years. Instead, nearly five years to the day since they first played together, Xhaka looks set to partner Mohamed Elneny in midfield against Brentford.
The decision to keep hold of Xhaka and avoid selling at a pitiful price isn’t ‘the’ mistake. It was time to move on, absolutely, but the primary source of bafflement is to tie him down on improved terms to protect value that doesn’t exist.
In 12 months’ time nobody will come in and bid £20m for him. Soon to turn 29 years old, the market for him is already limited and won’t suddenly open up when he’s older, his ability starts to wane and he’s on bigger wages. Finances across Europe won’t suddenly return to normal that quickly. The highest ever fee received for a Premier League midfielder over the age of 30 was £8m. That was Cesc Fabregas.
If the Arsenal are strapped for cash and there are no viable options out there to improve the team, then just keep Xhaka for another year and sell him next summer when he has 12 months left on his contract.
Arteta clearly values Xhaka, as plenty fans do too, and while the idea of protecting the assets is important, in this case there is nothing to protect.
Keep him by all means if the situation is fraught, but offering him more money and another two years on his deal doesn’t make any sense at all.